Mr. Mark Baer
I believe that people typically contact attorneys and mediators because they are involved in conflicts and disputes and are seeking help solving them.
The beginning impacts the end. The "beginning," in this regard, is not that which led to your current situation; rather, it is the "beginning" of how you choose to handle your conflicts and disputes. When separations and divorces are involved, “the beginning” is the beginning of the process of separating and divorcing - not the end of the romantic relationship. Your first moves and decisions greatly impact whether the level of conflict increases or decreases, among many other things. Therefore, the process and approach you select is incredibly important because it most certainly impacts the end.
If you lack sufficient accurate information with which to make informed decisions on process and approach, it’s impossible for you to make voluntary and informed decisions in that regard.
No process and approach is a panacea - there is no one-size-fits-all process and approach.
When I say that people must have sufficient accurate information with which to make informed decisions on process and approach, I am not stating that they should only hear the cons related to adversarial negotiation, litigation and court. In fact, I have similar complaints when mediators and collaborative law practitioners fail to provide even-handed information on those processes and approaches and their flaws. I know mediators, for example, who tout the importance of voluntary and informed consent and are so biased that they also sincerely believe that people should be forced to mediate. I find such a perspective incredibly disturbing.
If you lack the information with which to make informed decisions on process and approach and if it’s known that a great many traditional family law attorneys and those who work in and favor other processes and approaches don’t provide it, how do they acquire it?
This is why it’s so incredibly important for those making referrals to either be able to provide those individuals with such information or be able to explain the importance of it and direct them to resources from which they can obtain it.
I help people make voluntary and informed decisions with regard to both the process and approach they choose to pursue and the terms of any agreements they may reach. I assist people in bridging the gap between them, regardless of the size. I work to de-escalate conflicts and facilitate problem-solving. By de-escalating conflict and rebuilding trust, people are better able to resolve their differences in a constructive manner.
I help people to see things from different perspectives and to focus on the bigger picture. Working together, people understand each other's perspectives and reach agreements quickly and efficiently, saving time, money and stress.
Rather than merely helping broker a deal, I strive to facilitate mutually acceptable, achievable and durable solutions to problems that take into account the interests and needs of all involved.
When someone walks into my office, they can expect to find a competent, caring, and compassionate professional who is determined to assist them in resolving their conflicts and disputes constructively, rather than destructively.
As angry as you may be, keep in mind that fighting and "winning" don't solve problems and that mediators, peacemakers and bridge builders are not needed in times of peace and absence of conflict.
Whether in my work as a mediator, attorney, or conflict resolution consultant, I am committed to assisting people in resolving or otherwise managing their conflicts and reaching agreements that are in their best interest and that of their children.
The more I understand the nature of human conflict and what makes people tick, the better able I am at helping them resolve their differences. This involves a lot of empathy (the core of which is perspective-taking) and understanding how others think. It’s impossible to be empathic toward someone you’re judging. My philosophy and approach is consistent with the title of the book in which I co-authored two chapters, which is "Putting Kids First in Divorce: How to Reduce Conflict, Preserve Relationships and Protect Children During and After Divorce."
For frame of reference, I attended law school because of my personal experiences as a child of my parents’ very contentious litigated divorce and what I saw as the misuse of the legal system by people seeking emotional justice. As a result of those experiences, when I started practicing law over twenty-five years ago, I steered away from heavily emotional areas of law. Ironically, a few years later, I found myself practicing in the field of family law, a field I had deliberately avoided because I didn’t want to assist parents in unintentionally harming their children by escalating the level of parental conflict by fighting against each other. For a while, I believed that I could practice within the adversarial system and help children by doing so in psychologically-minded and child-centered manner in spite of the approach taken by the opposing side. Once I realized otherwise, I learned about mediation, received extensive mediation training, focused my practice on mediation and began publishing prolifically on the interplay between psychology and conflict resolution within the field of family law, as well as familial and interpersonal relationships in general. My articles have been referenced in books, law review articles, and by non-political evidenced-based public policy think tanks.
Working as a mediator closely aligns with my core values and how I define them. Two of the values that speak to me the most and without which I would not be who I am are “fairness” and “making a difference.” In addition, I define mediators as “peacemakers”, not “deal brokers”, and litigation attorneys as “warriors” and “gladiators.” As I began realizing that “legal justice” is not the same as “fundamental fairness”, I lost my passion “making a difference” through it.
What really makes me unique is my work on the concept of empathy, a key component of compassion. My work pertaining to empathy was also referenced in a study by Dr. Lynne Reeder, Director of Australia21, an evidence based public policy think tank.
On June 16, 2017, I was interviewed for an article published on Psych2go.net, a popular psychology website with over 1 million followers, most of them being millennials. The interviewer commented as follows:
"Mark, who I found out is not only accomplished in law but also an accomplished author, learns about clients’ relationships and how to best interact with them to solve their problems. This involves a lot of empathy and understanding how others think.... Baer proves that he does not need a degree in psychology to have any credibility about the topic of empathy. He works professionally with people to understand their relationships and how to best solve their problems with the same skill as any psychiatrist might. But I didn’t write this just to show how one can have deep psychological knowledge without directly working in psychology, I wrote it because Baer’s thoughts on empathy and the technique of empathy conversations are genuinely intriguing and important. I think that truly listening to someone you may disagree with is a very easy method to accept and understand their thinking, a method we can all practice every day."
This is particularly important, considering that many people believe that empathy is the key to conflict resolution or management.
Thomas Trent Lewis, Supervising Judge for the Los Angeles County Family Law Division, has said the following:
(1) "Family Court is supposed to be a last resort for family resolution."
(2) "Parental education on the effects upon children in the midst of a family law dispute advances the goal of 'mediate when you can, and litigate only when you must.'"
(3) "When personal safety is not at issue or compromised, mediated and collaborative negotiated resolution of disputes can achieve favorable and more durable outcomes for parents and children."
To "mediate," you actually need to have a "mediator." While there are different types of mediation, they all have one thing in common -- at least one "mediator."
Lawyer to lawyer negotiation is not mediation because it doesn't involve a mediator.
Litigate means to "engage in legal proceedings." While many family law attorneys may remind people that only approximately three percent of cases go to trial, that figure ignores all of the pre and post-trial legal proceedings, which are aspects of litigation.
Family courts hear far more than just trials. When they say that family court is to be a last resort for family resolution, I'm afraid they mean what they say - which is that it is to be a last resort on all types of matters, unless personal safety is at issue.
Is filing a Request for Order before attempting mediation when personal safety isn't at issue in accordance with what the Supervising Judge for the Los Angeles County Family Law Division considers to be "best practices?"
Is filing a Request for Order after trying unsuccessfully to negotiate with the other side before attempting mediation when personal safety isn't an issue in accordance with what the Supervising Judge for the Los Angeles County Family Law Division considers to be "best practices?"
And, "mediation" through Family Court Services (aka Conciliation Court) should not be confused with true mediation. On September 9, 2017, Huffington Post published an article of mine titled Don't Confuse Conciliation Court with Mediation. Harvard Law School's Program on Negotiation shared that article on its Facebook page and commented as follows: "Thanks for writing this article, Mark. We think and talk about these kinds of permutations lots around these parts and at the Harvard Mediation Program. And we too believe that mediation should be grounded in self-determination and informed consent."
My stating such things should not be deemed "lawyer bashing" because it is entirely consistent with that which has been consistently stated by our very well-respected Supervising Judge for the Los Angeles County Family Law Division.
How much clearer can Judge Trent Lewis be?
People must have a sufficient understanding of the various processes and approaches available (including their respective pros and cons) in order to make a voluntary and informed choice in that regard.
The pervasive and increasing incivility within the legal profession serves no purpose in helping clients solve their problems – quite the contrary.
In his article titled The Law As Violence: Essay: Litigation As Violence published in the Wake Forest Law Review in 2014, Vincent Cardi stated, "Making lawyers and the public more aware of the serious psychological harm to those involved in litigation is a moral obligation of the profession and would likely lessen the harms over time. As attorneys, we each have a moral obligation to know who will be hurt by our actions and a professional obligation to tell our clients of the harm that will likely accompany litigation.... Because an awareness of the likelihood of psychological suffering could be expected to deter some clients from filing suit, attorneys have a financial incentive not to advise the client of these problems. A court rule requiring attorneys to inform their clients of the serious psychological harms that often accompany litigation might be appropriate."
Areas of Mediation: Interpersonal Relations, Family Law, Separation, Divorce, Child Support, Child Custody, Visitation, Spousal Support, Domestic Partnerships, Paternity / Unmarried Parents, Property Division, High Net Worth Divorce, Palimony / Marvin, Prenuptial / Premarital Agreements, Marital Agreements, Parent-Child, Sibling-Sibling, Adult Family, Family Business, Business Divorce, Estate Planning, Trust and Estate, Probate, Conservatorship, Guardianship, Elder Care, and LGBT.
Additional Services: Consulting and Review Attorney work in Family Law matters, Conflict Resolution Consulting, Facilitating Meetings, Mediation, Empathy and Collaboration Trainings.
I have been selected as a Southern California Super Lawyer since 2012 for alternative dispute resolution (which includes mediation and collaborative law) and family law. In 2017 and 2018, I won Corporate LiveWire’s Global Award for “Family Lawyer of the Year – North America” and was elected a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, in recognition of exemplary dedication to highest principles of the legal profession, commitment to the welfare of society, and support for the ideals, objectives, and work of the American Bar Foundation.